April 26, 2017
Pauline Hanson supporters in Ipswich and Toowoomba
Image People need to stop being precious: Hanson 0:42 Pauline Hanson has defended the federal government’s proposed changes to race-hate speech laws.
Jed Smith news.com.au
VINTAGE Australian-made cars, Harley Davidson-enthusiasts in their dozens and breezy Queenslanders built into the sides of fertile hills and valleys.
This is Cunungra (population: 1147) in the Division of Wright, otherwise known as the start of Pauline Hanson country, polling as one of her strongest electorates in (20.9% in the 2016 Federal Election) in what was the strongest state for One Nation, Queensland (9.19%).
“The people are as nice you’ll meet. Always smiling, always polite,” begins the service station attendant, “but they’re also the types to sit on the veranda in their rocking chair with a shotgun across their lap.
“They like to take care of their own business up here. That’s where the territoriality and the One Nation thing creeps in,” she says, adding: “There’s unsolved murders and everything out here, bodies hidden in rivers and the bush.”
Cunungra is a spec of a town most famous for being the former mecca of Queensland’s timber industry. Thirty minutes west and signs of changing fortunes are in the air as we reach Beaudesert, a town which has been in steady decline since the local Meat Works packed up here.
Until a few weeks ago it was also suffering its hottest, driest summer in living memory. Here we meet local landowner Michael who owns the “Gun and Ammo” store in town, complete with mounted animal heads on the walls and Native American Indian statues at the entrance.
“It’s pretty cruisy. Just do what you need to do and go home at the end of the day and sink a rum,” he says of life in these parts.
That’s if you’re lucky enough to be employed by one of several family owned businesses in town or a nearby military base. Otherwise, it’s bleak.
“Next to none this stage,” he says of work prospects. “You won’t get much of a chance unless you go through Coles or Woolies or something like that.”
His political opinions are limited, other than to say, “Generally they’re all a bunch of lying pricks.”
“And the government trying to change all the gun laws to take the guns off people … if the opportunity comes along and (the public) need to defend themselves they’re not going to be able to and the military and all that are not around in all suburbs nor is the police force,” he says.
Declining living standards in towns like Beaudesert, while corporate profits boom, and the disconnect between workers and the political system have pushed many toward One Nation.
“I think (politicians) are running the country into the ground myself. With the wars going on, the refugee problem, always trying to take money away from the people that need it,” says Jerry, an ex-servicemen and One Nation voter who works as a volunteer at the war museum in Beaudesert. He voted for Hanson’s party to “keep ‘em honest.”
“People want (someone) to talk out about the things that concern them and One Nation seems to be listening to what the common person wants done,” he says.
There is a common enemy in Pauline Hanson country but it isn’t Islam. It’s our political system.
Further on the outskirts of town we find intergenerational dairy farmer, Greg Dennis, 47, who made national headlines last year when he drove his tractor from Beaudesert to Cairns to generate awareness about the many dairy farmers suffering under the “corporate duopoly” of Woolworths and Coles.
He has been suffering from depression lately, which he says is in no small part related to his ailing business interests and our broken political system.
“We’re experiencing a lot of downward price pressure towards the farmer because of supermarket wars and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a profit as a farming business across different agricultural sectors,” he says.
“It’s something I’m having a bit of a challenge with right now because I’m actually getting to a point of giving up on Australians. The Australian people don’t get it and they don’t care.
“They talk like they care but that’s not how they spend money. So when it comes to farmers who grow food, the consumer in Australia has been brainwashed by the duopoly; the cheap-cheap and down-down campaigns, and that is the way they are spending their money,” he says.
Dennis blames a political system corrupted by the profit motive of multinational corporations.
“We’re becoming oblivious to the fact that small business employs nearly as many people Australia wide as large and medium businesses combined. Yet small business is the one really suffering financially. It’s not just agriculture, it’s small business in general. There don’t seem to be any incentives coming forward to make small business to remain profitable or even viable,” he says.
Dennis had previously voted conservative — either for the Liberal Party or National/Country Party (now the Liberal National Par